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EditorialLEMOA: A Phase shift in Indian Foreign Policy

LEMOA: A Phase shift in Indian Foreign Policy


LEMOA: A Phase shift in Indian Foreign Policy

A major change in 's foreign policy with signing of Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the United States of America in Washington has left many awestruck and some shock-waved.

With signing of the Agreement in question, speculations are being made in favour of a strengthened bond between India and USA.

Manohar Parrikar, Minister of India and the US Defence Secretary, Ashton Carter were present during the sign-up by senior officials from the two countries.

With this, comes the ever delayed but finally arrived positive development in the Indian Foreign Policy. But it's pertinent to not confuse the LEMOA with any sort of strategic defence relationship. They have not. As the Indian Defence Ministry explained, the agreement sets out “basic terms, conditions and procedures for reciprocal provision of logistic support, supplies, and service between the armed forces of India and the US.”

Indian warships and military aircraft, for example, can now reach farther from the home base since they will be able to refuel and draw on routine maintenance services available at the US bases in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean. Notably, the logistics support is for only peace-time missions. It can be drawn by either country's military for authorised purposes. Joint exercises and joint training, humanitarian missions such as disaster relief automatically qualify under LEMOA.

For any other purpose prior permission will be required. The US has entered into such agreements with a number of countries, some of which are not its allies. India was careful not to sign a similar agreement for fear of being seen as a camp follower of the US. It painstakingly negotiated a special agreement which incorporated its sensibilities. Regardless of the criticism that the agreement signals India's abandoning of an independent foreign policy, the Modi Government has advanced bilateral defence cooperation with the US while taking care not to in any way affect its independence.

A weak Manmohan Singh afraid of controversy had dragged his feet for ten years. No such indecisiveness distorts the functioning of the Modi Government. Given the hostile in India's neighbourhood, given the rise of China as an assertive economic and military power, and the growing uncertainties of the Islamic , safeguarding India's interests through a logistics support pact with the biggest military and economic power in the world makes immense sense.

Criticism that the Government was getting too close to the US or was entering into a strategic defence pact with the US can be expected. The Communists, whose DNA is anti-American and who make more noise than is warranted by their strength on the ground, can be relied upon to cry `sell-out.' They are unlikely to find any takers for the pro forma opposition. The Congress and other casteist groups too will mumble protest but in their heart of hearts they would be happy that the Government has done the right thing. India cannot be a lone-ranger in a fast-changing geopolitical situation with China making attempts to encircle the country courtesy Pakistan, the ever perfidious neighbour.

Yet, as Parrikar noted, the LEMOA is no strategic agreement and does not oblige either country to come to the rescue of the other in case of an attack on either one, the standard arrangement in military alliances like NATO and CENTO. India is averse to enter into any military alliance.

Yet, this should not preclude closer cooperation with countries which can have no inimical designs on this country. In the changed geopolitical scenario India is right to want to prepare for all possible eventualities. Even if the domestic politics, and the BJP's own reservations on moving closer in the strategic sphere with the US, rule out a formal defence alliance, keeping one's options open while cooperating in mutually beneficial areas ought to be welcome.

Those who see red at the growing Indo-US relationship will do well to recall how the votary of non-alignment had run to the US when the Chinese threatened to overrun the North-East in the winter of 1962. Fortunately for Nehru, the Chinese withdrew as suddenly as they had come, though the messiah of non-alignment had crumbled and begged for the US military intervention. What the 1962 fiasco should teach us is to keep the national interest supreme, above all other considerations of ideology, personal likes and dislikes and even partisan domestic politics.

The defence of no ideology can be greater than the territorial integrity of the country. In fact, if the Chinese-Pakistan axis assumes a greater threat than it is at present, there should be no hesitation for India to seek closer strategic ties with the US. LEMOA and other such steps pave the way for closer defence between the world's biggest democracies which have common strategic interests in the region. It is significant that the Chinese media have cautioned India against closer defence cooperation with the US.


The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.


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